Charles Fewlass, 2013/05/30 21:22
Jack Vance passed away this week. Here is his obituary at The Guardian. It's a good one.
I forget how I came across Vance's fiction. It might have been a friend who had mentioned the Dying Earth role-playing game. As it was, it was in the last five years. However it came to be, I ended up reading the whole of the Dying Earth series, and I bought all the RPG material published by Pelgrane Press. (It was 1/2 off at the time, due to PP losing the license, but then they got it back recently.)
While I'm on the subject of Pelgrane Press, here is Simon Roger's (the founder of PP) memorial of Vance.
I tried to run the Dying Earth RPG for friends a few months ago. The gang was cracking up and having a lot of fun. However at the end of the night when I asked them if they would like me to turn that session into a campaign, the answer was no. I was stunned and a bit perplexed. Evidently my group had experienced a bit of culture shock from DERPG. Most groups–even the best role-players–are used to playing in a Power Fantasy. DERPG is definitely the opposite. The point is to enjoy the story that springs forth from everyone's misfortune. They didn't buy it, though. Oh well.
Regardless, all the RPG material put out by PP for DE makes for a fabulous read. They did it right. You can tell all the writers and designers loved the material with all the attention they lavished on it. BTW, Robin Laws created the system.
I often look upon DERPG as a model for how to make a RPG for Lankhmar–with the exception that I would want players to want to play it. The system is built to emulate the narrative of the DE stories. When TSR released Lankhmar material, they tried to force Lankhmar to fit the D&D system. It was a round peg in a square hole. Mongoose didn't do much better when they acquired the license and tried to make Lankhmar fit with Runequest. If anyone else acquires the license, I would wish that they would follow Robin Laws' model, and try to make a system that is built around the needs of the Lankhmar setting.
Readers of this site, are probably already familiar with Jack Vance's influence on D&D. The magic system is built on Vance's fiction. It is Vancian magic. Vecna is an anagram for Vance. And the thief class probably owes as much to Cugel the Clever as it does to the Gray Mouser.
At any rate, if you haven't read any of his stories, you should. And I highly recommend the Dying Earth for your list.